Play-by-Post Gaming: Narrative

Earlier this week I talked about the importance of pacing in a Play-by-Post (PbP) game. The appropriate pace for your group of players helps keep them engaged which in turn helps lead to a long running PbP game. While pace is important there are other elements of a PbP that can help keep your players engaged. Today we take a look at the power of description and narration within posts.

When browsing other PbPs I frequently see posts from GMs that have fallen to cardboard, one dimensional NPCs or combats that have become “swing and hit” or “swing and miss” posts. The posts are brief and lack any significant descriptive elements. These posts miss out on one of the great advantages PbPs do bring to the table – a medium to really describe the NPCs, their mannerisms and environment.

As GM, take the time to describe that tavern the characters enter. The message board medium allows you the format to describe the smells, the sounds and appearance of that tap room. Take a moment to describe a few of the patrons. Make the place come alive for your players, use your posts to add depth that one might not normally be able to do during a face-to-face game.

You can also bring NPCs to life through descriptive posting as well. Take the extra time to describe an unusual mannerism or perhaps a certain smell associated with the person. Describe their clothing – is it rich and elegant or old and thread-bare? Keep track of these things for later in the game when the NPC reappears so you are consistent through the game with your NPC mannerisms.

This also carries through to combat posts as well. Don’t let your combat posts turn into simple, over mechanical “swing and miss” posts. Add some description to the combat posts. Liven up the combat. Describe the sword swings, describe the parries and describe the glancing blows off of armor. Make note of the sounds happening. Do this for both attacks that hit and the ones that miss. Building up a combat post with lively description can also help draw your players in and keep them engaged with the game.

As mentioned in my pacing post earlier in the week, keeping players engaged with the game will lead to a successful PbP. Making sure that your GM posts include enough description to build an immersive world and play experience will also contribute to keeping your players engaged with your game.

2 thoughts on “Play-by-Post Gaming: Narrative

  1. I think it’s worth mentioning that the GM should encourage the players to be just as descriptive in their posts. By setting an example, hopefully the players will follow his/her lead. There’s nothing more disheartening than writing out a meticulously detailed post as you suggest, only to have the players respond with, “I ask for an ale,” “I search the room,” or, “I wait to see what happens.”

  2. Excellent point! The description aspect needs to come from both the GM and the players to really help keep the game entraining.

    I plan on a Player installment next week in regards to Play-by-Post. I will make sure descriptive posts are part of that blog article.

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